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The Background To Social Constructivism Theory Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 3744 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This essay will firstly describe the origins, background and history of the Social Constructionism theory and how it is linked to Social Constructivism. Secondly, the essay will show how this theory affects the way sexuality is viewed and explained. The essay will also show how other aspects such as religion and culture play a key role in sexuality and then examine some of the early sexual reform movements. Finally, it will focus on some modern developments and influences that continue to shape our sexuality in the modern contemporary.

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In sociological theory of knowledge there is also social constructivism. This term refers to general philosophy in constructing knowledge in social settings where groups collaborate and create small shared culture and shared meanings (Vygosky, 1978). Social constructivism is a theory that is closely linked to social constructionism in a way that in both theories people work together in constructing artifacts. Social constructionism refers to artefacts that are created depending on the social interaction of a group whilst social constructivism address the individual learning that takes place in interactions in a group. The word Social Construction was derived from social constructuctionism by (Berger and Luckmann, 1967) who were the first sociologists to use this word in 1966 when they wrote the book called “The Social Construction of Reality”. They argue that the word is made up of ordinary common sense. This was quickly followed by Foucault in the 1970s who describes Social Constructionism as related to human sexuality. According to Berger and Luckmann (1967) social construction has the main features such as typification, institutions and significations. This notion is not only about worldly things but it profoundly affects the way we believe, think, our values attitudes and the way we behave. This means to say that our knowledge is socially constructed and is the centre which defines how the world is.

Although sexuality has a diverse meanings Carroll (2007) describes it as mating rituals to create ideas, customs, laws, art and fantasies, around the sexual act. She suggests that generally, sexuality is also a term that determines the feelings and behaviour of human beings in relation to sex. Oakley (1985) describes sexuality as a reproductive aspect that focuses attention on shared functions on humanity by cultural tolerance. According to Oakley sexuality is recognized by power and vitality with some political advantages that accumulate to any man by desirable calibre of spreading his seed far afield and therefore creating many branches of his decent line through different sets of children. In other words, sexuality is learned from culture, family, romantic partners, friends and within the context of society as a whole as well as from other sources. On the hand biological theories of sexuality emphasizes that it is fixed by nature and a strong link between hormones to chromosomes, brain anatomy, genetic patterns due to inborn that differentiate women and men. Bristow (1997) argues that the concept of sexuality is deeply embedded by sexual functioning, ovulation, pregnancy, conception, hormonal release and birth that are controlled by physiological.

However, (Butler, 2004) Sexuality refers to natural distinctions in a cultural meanings and social forms which both there is a function of norms. One’s sexuality how to become or know your sexuality it depends on the modes in which is dispossessed. Wittig cited in (Butler, 2004) argues that sexuality is categorized in different ways, some psychologists like Fred tries to attempt it as an issue of genital organized sexuality. This type of sexuality referred to Lesbian who do it as an economy of pleasures which will both challenge the construction of female subjectivity marked by women’ supposedly distinctive reproductive function. However, this was a construction of proliferation of pleasures through reproductive construction of genitality. Cameroon and Kulick (2003)define reproductive sexuality as a bridging nature and culture that clearly manifest gender between these two dichotomies. Witting cited in (Butler, 2004) describes the lesbian body as sexually constructed since this is subjective to sex, desire and transforming of gender identity. Heterosexual was considered the only normal which Butler (2004) argues that model of normalization of heterosexual diffuse antigenital sexuality and ignores hegemonic structure of sexuality.

In the 19th century during Victorian times sexual practices were kept secret, very confined only regarded in home environment. Sexuality was taken as custody and engaged on in the purpose of reproduction. For example during this modern era time the women status of sex was determined by the way of dressing (Butler, 2004). She points out that married women were only allowed to wear long skirts and there was no clothing worn during their childhood and even in their pre-adolescence. Butler (2004) argue that women’ sexuality was constructed through sexual status by demonstration of their previous clothing. For example short skirts resembled as a sign of previous sexual experience among women. Women were considered to be very royal and honest after marriage (Butler, 2004) Foucault (1990) argues that during this time everything beyond outside household was regarded as abnormal only gestures, open transgressions and shameless discourse where bodies were displaying themselves was allowed as a norm of the society. Oakley (1972) points out that subordination of women originated from the masculine conception regarding woman, and raised some ideals, norms that strongly influenced women behaviour in lacking power in challenging male view of women sex. Through patriarchy the suppression of women has continued and through social construction the role of women developed into that of the weaker sex who has suffered a lower status than men in society.

The social theorists such as Wolkwtiz (2006) describes the construction of sexuality as shaped through bodies by individuals and their identities. In addition to this feminist point out that female body are taken as body of embodiment. Foucault (1978) argues that culture so dominating in influencing sexual desire rather than biological sex drive in human being. However, Feminists theorist believes that the choice on individual sexuality is most influenced on our ideas from the society. They believe that social construction of sexuality is based on power that man has authority for a number of centuries. Oakley (1997), argues that sex identity, gender identity and gender role only show conformity and two possibilities of the identity of masculinity as dominance over femininity. She went on to say that therefore no one was born being as homosexual. In addition, the feminist also outlined that sexual gender inequality is the major issue in subordination of women and being seen as sexual objects by men, which result in sexual aggression such as rape and sexual abstinent. According to Butler (2004) argues that sexuality is socially constructed by the way women are treated, societies have different view on women, their bodies are seen as objects that are suitable to abuse, pornography, sexual harassment and prostitution. The feminist movement has given rise to a large body of theory which attempts to explain sexuality inequalities and set forth agendas for overcoming those inequalities. The major strands of feminism in the west during the twentieth century were liberal, socialist or Marxist and radical feminism. These feminist theories in relation to sexuality contrast markedly with one another. They sought to explain sexuality inequalities through variety of social process, such as sexism, patriarchy and capitalism (Faulcout, 1978). The feminists argue that male sexuality constantly views sex like an act that only men perform on the body of a women involves that involves erection of penis and penetration into women vagina. This only supports dominance of men over women’s body that resulted from the way society constructing sexuality on human beings. Sexuality as well underwent the same epistemological shift. Postmodernism, in fact, invites to consider sexuality not as a biologically constituted and naturally determined entity that confine the possibility of action and existence of human beings, nor as a place where the ‘true’ self is kept, but as a plastic entity manufactured by and within the language: sexuality thus is socially and discursively constructed as well.

However the Liberal and the Radical Feminists argues about heterosexuality regime in the society. They describe it as a socially compulsory regime that dissipated and masks the existence of women that result in undermining solidarity among women in facing subordination. Some Sociologists such as the Liberal and Radical feminists both argue that heterosexual is related to social constructionism and triggered for instance social violence upon women. They also argue that the distinctive categories of man and women form dangers to construction analysis (Johnson, 2005). The sociologists believe that society plays a vital role in influencing different sexual behaviors in societies. Carroll (2007) argues that family is one of the major factors which influence values for human sexuality. She believes that the construction of sexuality in contemporary societies is mainly emerged through male dominance. Culturally, in modern societies, male sexuality is being viewed as an act that involves male genital as having power over women genital and without these men genital do not have power. Sexuality is more shaped by human values and beliefs towards power through engagement of sex. Therefore, there are some negative and positive learned behaviors that women and men do to their sex roles in the society. Butler (2004) believes that construction of sexuality in society emerged through erection of male organ and denial of female orgasm. Our parents and family give strong influential messages about the norm of the society’s view of sexuality. Family microsystem also influences how a society views sexuality (Beasley, 2005). In addition, Carroll (2007) argues that family views women as they are naturally born for reproduction and sex is not meant pleasurable for them. According to Butler (2004) criticize the concept of sexuality in a family because it considered all other sexual behaviors as being abnormal, immature and not suitable for human life. Butler (2004) mentions that in family structure women are not allowed to seek any knowledge regarding sex. The ideology of private nuclear family such as the father, mother and children has also seen as social construction and male sexuality dominating. For example in Muslim Families, Women should be dressed in demeanor and long dresses. The feminist believes that social construction of sexuality is based on the power of men’s

Foucault (1979) identifies religion as a deconstructing theme which influences women in participating sexual activities. He outlines that female sexuality has been internalized in the negative view of their life experiences and social cultural constructions. Foucault (1979) argues that the institutional and structural sources of female sexuality is derived from women’s sexual meanings and this impact women lives. Religion was seen as major influential on the construction of female sexuality because it explores sexual attitudes behaviors in marriage relationships. Beasley (2005 ) argues that religion do not prevent premarital sexual behaviors among human but it only enables religious men and women to become inactive in practicing masturbation. He emphasizes that masturbation is a fulfillment of sexual desire by practicing intercourse through oral stimulation of genitals and this is mostly done by inactive religious people. Judaism Islamic heavily argues that Biblical any practice of masturbation is regarded as a sin which produce guilt and shame. Johnson, (2005) argues that Christian religions impose beliefs on women that their sexual roles in the society are only to fulfill family desires and needs. These feelings make women inferior and seen being trapped in patriarchal structure of society. Foucault, (1992) claims that such as the Jude- Christian tradition portrays women as objects for the perpetuating men’s use. Carroll (2007) mentions that during Victorian era Christianity viewed sexuality only as reproductive activity that only done for pleasure. For example there are two ideologies driven from the Puritans Christianity culture that construct sexuality. One is the Machismo which resembles the superiority of men sexuality over women. Biblically, this means that women should be submissive to their husband and the husband is considered as the head of the family. The other one is the Marianismo that is based on the model that was played by Mary the mother of God. Carroll (2007) claims that women according to their sexuality should accept the superiority of husband as God’s will as it has been done by Mary. Beasley (2005) argues that church is an institute that constructed for female to perform their sexualities according to religious beliefs in patriarchal society.

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The economy also plays a pivot role in influencing the beliefs and values of societies’ view of sexuality (Bayer, 1997). He suggests that capitalism like the U.S economy is deeply concerned about the exchange of the services with money. This gives a potential rise in some related sex services such as pornography, sex shops and prostitution. Bayer (1997) outlined that pornography is one of the human activities in the construction of sexuality. Foucault (1978) also argues that the human activity such as sex workers is also dominating in the construction of the notion of sexuality and commodification that conceptualizes selling of sex as normal. Pornography is the stigma which has a social meaning in disciplining women’s sexual behaviors in the western world Foucault (1984). Butler (2004) maintains that women sexuality in sex selling is exposed in terms of dressing sexy, nakedness and dancing and these social behaviors can make them attractive and identity is mostly created by sexual performances. She claims that selling of sex signifies the objectivity women body in their sexuality. In addition Butler (2004) identifies that the decorative object materials such as fingernails polish, stripped toothpaste, earrings and necklaces are seen as decorative labour for women in construction of their identity and put a boundary between male and female sexuality. However, the Postmodernism, consider sexuality as naturally determined and constituted in the existence and action of human beings where there is no truth of self but confined in the entire plastic. Moore and Zuccarini (2009) suggest that pornography resulted due the economy of well-developed countries such as U.S.A, Britain where women from poor countries are trafficked for sex. This view is supported by Johnson (2005) who views the construction of sexuality through the means of graphic sexually exploitation and subornation of women thorough words and pictures in imitation of their bodies. Beasley ( 2005) argues that the sexuality of human sexuality such as women are more of dehumanization of their bodies, they are seen as sexual objects, presented in body parts such as buttocks, limited to vaginas, breasts, they present pleasure in rape.

Media is a primary source which constitutes parts of international and national industries with related superficial reports on prostitution and trafficking women (Dorwkin, 1981). He went on to say that this result in the objectifying of femininity and sexuality images among women. Dorwkin (1981) argues that media portrays the femininity sexuality give a powerful perpetuation dominant power structures to masculinity. Bayer (1987) also argues media such as magazines, mahogany has some photographs that construct images of femininity and female sexuality which produce fantasizing desires and pleasures in a limited way. Carroll (2007) argues that media plays a vital role in shaping the public opinion, interests and directing hearts and mind of the public in sexual political realm. Bayer (1987) also argues that media’s representation of characteriscs of homosexuality during their publication is not fully expressed and it does not show fully homosexual characters and it only expresses this idea as normal to the public. Dorwkin (1981) also claims that media behaves in a way the society deems appropriate. For example the lesbians shown on national television media do not show there real characters. Dorwkin (1981) went on to say the absence of a performance of lesbianism is not simply the absence of lesbian sex, but the absence of any representation of lesbianism as a factor that it encourages the society to lesbian identity. The invisibility of lesbianism character not only allows heartbeat to avoid any substantial portrayal of an experience outlawed by the dominant patriarchal discourse, but to obscure homophobia. Bristow (1997) suggest that the invisibility of lesbianism supports patriarchal values by removing the need to confront the homophobia and heterosexist/sexism that visible lesbianism signifies. He went on to claim that the sanitization for public consumption is always prevalent with the exception of when they do show gay characters, they are usually portrayed in a stereotypical, feminine fashion such as Nathan Lane in the movie. For example, the Birdcage or with the stigma of the gay man with AIDS, such as Tom Hanks in Philadelphia.  Johnson (2005) identifies that continuing prevalence of stigmatization and stereotyping of those considered “deviant” serves to maintain status and control of power the notion of heterosexuality as the norm of the society. However, Moore and Zuccarini (2009) argue that media contribute to the process of commodification of sexuality and promote cultural stereotypes around sex work even through their ostensibly disapproving reports on trafficking.

They are different cultures which are also seen in the contributing to construction of human sexuality such as, transsexuals, cross-dressers, transvestites, intersex individuals those born with ambiguous genitals Carroll (2007). Some surgical techniques were performed in the construction of their gender and sexuality. Sex reassignment surgery was developed to help bring transsexuals biology into line with their inner lives. Carroll (2007) points out that construction of sexuality on transsexuals depends on the interests, values and the individual’s beliefs on being recognised a as being male or female. Moore and Zuccarin (2009) draw attention to the distinctive categories of female and male genitals which are constructed and the use of silicone implants in creating breasts. They claim that the artificial constructions of the genital organs motivate the beliefs to those who recognise it as a fulfilment of their sexuality. Joseph (2009) also claims that some other cultures like the Persian Gulf country of Oman transsexual they undergo ritual castration where all their parts of genitals are removed and they believe this gives them special powers to bless male children. In addition to this Joseph ( 2008) also points out that in the contemporary culture, language such as the pornified messages are communicated through print and electronic media which a being seen as sexual liberating. Moore and Zuccarini (2009) argues that liberation of sexuality is only intimate part of humanity and its liberation expression can only be fulfilled and empowered and there is a major different experience in today’s culture which result in capitalist commodification of sexuality in the whole society. Weeks (2000) also argues that the concept of bio power by Foucault which relate to power constructed by industrialisation in supporting cultural hegemony in capitalism. He emphasis that biopower is strongly linked to bio politics construction of sexuality and it regulates human sexuality into categories.

The medical community also influences how a society views sexuality. For example, many years ago physicians taught that masturbation was a disease that could lead to permanent mental illness. This attitude influenced societal opinions of masturbation. Other behaviors in which physicians urged people not to engage included anal intercourse, extramarital sex, homosexuality, and bisexuality. Society’s values about these behaviors were guided by the medical community’s attitudes and beliefs. A fifth influence that regulates sexual behavior in the United States is the law (Carroll, 2007). The law establishes what sexual behaviors are “officially” right and wrong. For example, laws regulate the availability of certain contraceptive methods, abortion, and certain sexual behaviors. Laws help establish social norms and influence societal attitude.

To conclude, many sociological issues contribute to the construction of categories of sexuality and gender identity in our society.  The primacy of masculinity versus femininity, the categorizing of deviants as “abnormal” or needing psychiatric “treatment,” and the role of power in American society all contribute to explaining and understanding the role of deviance in our society.  There are also several tools that serve to maintain, enforce, and reinforce these categories, but the strongest uniting factor is the imputation of negative status for that which is deviant.  Foucault (1984) argues that we should avoid applying terms of behaviour to individuals.  Rather than using terms such as heterosexual and homosexual to describe persons, we should use them in describing the nature of overt sexual relations. I think he posed this idea in light of conducting objective, unbiased research and the realization that the use of these terms was too restrictive and limiting to characterize a person based on their sexual behaviour.  From a deeper point of view there is lot of evidence that there are so many factors that contribute in the determination on how society feels about sexuality. 


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